By Bay Jia Wei (17S06R)
There’s a confession to be made about my GP lessons, beyond the usual regrets expressed after exams: I suspect my GP tutor is an ambassador of BBC News. Yours could be too. Or maybe they are Economist advocates, or swear by the verity of TIME. But of course, when it comes to the news we read, all of us have our preferences. After all, most of us are geared, or naturally gravitate towards a certain spirit of opinions.
Regardless of which news agencies they may or may not have closed deals with, GP tutors are often heard echoing the same tune: hard facts are not enough to sustain an essay, and that the department has been trying to grow and harvest opinions from our pea-sized brain fields.
But what are these elusive ‘opinions’, really? Wise man Kant probably articulates it best: opinions are in absolute compliance with Kant’s philosophy of the “phenomenal” world, in that our understanding of the world is limited to the working of our perceptions. In this manner, there exists no objectivity in the “noumenal” sense.
This does not mean to say that journalism is nothing but one-sided bias, or that “the world is a lie!!” Rather, we live (and read) with the understanding that any work we come across offers a particular interpretation of this world, which is often inevitably influenced by inherent ideological beliefs.
While adopting no stance or judgement on what is good or worthy news, this article will deliver ideological and stylistic characterisations of leading news sites, with a particular focus on their Opinion Editorials. These articles, termed affectionately as Op-Eds, tend to be opinion pieces centred around current events, rather than the traditional hard fact that defines “news”.
And so let’s begin with a third party’s conjecture.
The scale above is my take on the political ideology that different news sites adopt, which subsequently influences the views that they publish. It is but an attempt at providing a brief analysis of what we read, so that we can widen the range of thought we are exposed to or purposefully avoid what we insist to be corrupted ideology (or what many know to be the bourgeoisie).
Here, we explore the distinguishing characteristics of selected news sites.
The Economist, for instance, has good reason for being one of the most promoted (and even subscribed) magazines for students in Singapore. It is one of the least radical sources of news that seems to show no inherent bias towards the left- or right-wing. Some brand this behaviour as inconsistency; others think it to be moderate, based on its frequent oscillations between typically left- and right-wing policies. Here, you can find The Economist explaining itself. Stylistically speaking, The Economist almost always sounds level-headed and rational, and probably prides itself for that. Maybe.
The New Yorker, on the other hand, has crafted itself a name for being flamboyantly satirical, and was pretty much designed ahead of time for the likes of 21st century hipsters with a fetish for hipster fonts, hipster humour, and did I mention? Hipster satirical cartoons. (Sometimes I feel like that’s the only thing I ever read on The New Yorker.) Consider grabbing yourself a Morning Cartoon on the way to school to keep in touch with the world’s state of affairs.
Content wise, The New Yorker offers, not unexpectedly, a revolutionary outlook on the world—some may even call it quintessentially leftist—with a knack for generating some of the most intriguing headlines (read: In The Heart of Trump Country). If anything, The New Yorker has revolutionised news to begin with, challenging the typical perception of news as dry, boring, and mundane. One of its talents lies in storytelling: its personal accounts can be very evocative and touching (read: Love and Solitude).
If you have been stuck on this island long enough, you’d be well-acquainted with the national brand: The Straits Times! It offers pretty good coverage of things happening in Singapore, and the INSIGHT column that appears every Sunday is worth a read, discussing pertinent issues that you may hear some Singaporeans rambling about (read: Job Seekers). Be careful not to dismiss this trusty source based on what you may often hear about its political bias. Do supplement with our very own independent news sites/blogs, a popular alternative being Mothership.sg.
And now we come to (caution: personal bias) what I consider one of the most favourable and tolerable news sites: The Atlantic! It is the right amount of wise, without being formidably intellectual; right amount of pretentious, without falling off its two feet. Miraculously, it has the right proportions of everything—it is very, very suitable. What’s best is The Atlantic’s commitment to context, (read: Long read) meaning to say that most of its opinion pieces are grounded in reality, without analysis circulating in a stuffy, theoretical void (read: On Sexism). No, really, I’m not paid to be biased.
If you’re sourcing for a portrayal of the world that is not whitewashed or rose-tinted, Al Jazeera provides detailed coverage of crises affecting the world, predominantly in the Middle East. A strong and mature voice that attempts to educate its readers on dark realities is perhaps what characterises this news site. Its pieces often carry a strong personal voice (read: Syria Talks: The Urgent Question) that does not degrade analysis or lead to faltering arguments.
All that I have offered above is nothing but my perception of what various news sites stand for. Ultimately, we all have our preferences when it comes to the news we read. Perhaps, it is just time for us to put a finger on what opinions mean to us, and what we want out of them. Or, really, just listen to your GP tutor.